Afghanistan will produce another enormous opium poppy crop this year, close to last year's record harvest, and Europe and other regions should brace themselves for the expected influx of heroin, the United Nations warned in its annual winter survey of poppy planting patterns.
Cultivation is still increasing in the insurgency-hit south and west of the country, the report said, and taxes on the crop have become a major source of revenue for the Taliban insurgency.
"This is a windfall for antigovernment forces, further evidence of the dangerous link between opium and insurgency," Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, wrote in the report's preface.
The report will be released today by the Office on Drugs and Crime at an international donors conference in Tokyo. An advance copy was shown to the New York Times. "Cultivation levels will be broadly similar to, perhaps slightly lower than, last year's record harvest," Costa said. There are signs that the sharp increases of recent years are leveling off, but the "total amount of opium being harvested remains shockingly high."
Russian lawyer seeks asylum in US
Boris Kuznetsov, a lawyer who challenged the Russian security services' wiretapping of his client, has applied for political asylum in the United States, his Moscow attorney said Tuesday. Kuznetsov fled Russia in July after authorities accused him of divulging state secrets by providing evidence of the wiretapping to the Constitutional Court. He has taken part in an array of high-profile cases, including representing the family of murdered journalist Anna Politikovskaya, a fierce Kremlin critic, and the families of sailors who died in the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster in 2000. By seeking asylum, Kuznetsov is "striving to secure himself from lasting and steadfast criminal prosecution," his lawyer Robert Zinoviev told the Associated Press.
15 Ethiopians killed in grenade attack
A grenade tossed into a house killed at least 15 people and wounded 50 others Tuesday in Somalia's northeastern Puntland region, an official said. Most of those killed or wounded were Ethiopians believed to be on their way to find work in the Arabian Peninsula, which lies across the Gulf of Aden, said Muse Geele Yusuf, a senior official in the region. Yusuf said police were searching for the attackers and trying to determine why the Ethiopians were targeted. Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of tense - and, at times, violent - relations. Ethiopian troops are currently propping up Somalia's shaky U.N.-backed government in the southern part of the country.
Japan's fleet resumes whaling in Antarctica
Japan has resumed its annual whale hunt in waters near Antarctica now that antiwhaling activists have stopped pursuing the Japanese fleet, a news report said Tuesday. Japan temporarily halted its hunt in mid January after confrontations with both Greenpeace and the militant antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, according to the Kyodo News agency. Japan defends its annual killing of more than 1,000 whales, conducted under a clause in International Whaling Commission rules that allows whales to be killed for scientific purposes. Critics dismiss the Japanese program as a disguise for commercial whaling, which has been banned by the IWC since 1986.
Incandescent bulbs to be phased out
The Philippines will phase out incandescent bulbs by 2010 in favor of more energy-efficient fluorescent globes to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and household costs, the president said Tuesday. Acknowledging similar moves in Canada and Australia, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called for a ban on incandescent bulbs. "Like Australia, we should phase out incandescent lights by 2010," Arroyo said in her closing remarks at the Philippine Energy Summit. The Asian Development Bank, a technical adviser at the summit, lauded the Philippine plan as a first in Asia. It said the most effective way to reduce the demand for electricity and greenhouse gases was to use energy more efficiently.